America's Next Top Model

Episode One Recap May 20, 2003

If there was a Nobel Prize for Addressing the Needs of Your Public, supermodel Tyra Banks would be a sure thing. Apparently she gets asked all the time "How can I get into the field of modeling?" But instead of individually (or actually) answering, she decided to produce America's Next Top Model and show us how it's all done.

In eight weeks, Tyra and her panel of expert judges (stay with me, I mean, they can't be as bad as the Married by America panel) will churn out one girl who'll take the honors. In addition, she'll win a cosmetics contract with Revlon, an editorial in Marie Claire and a modeling contract with the Wilhelmina Models agency (which isn't among the top ten modeling agencies but it is legit).

Tyra says she wants to take someone from obscurity to fame so let's get started. First we're given a montage of the thousands of audition tapes that were sent in to the producers in the nationwide search. I only counted about twenty but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. The winning traits are originality, creativity and humor, we're told, and they want women of all colors, shapes and sizes. Hmmm, someone definitely did not bother looking up all sizes on www.dictionary.com because everyone there was your standard issue 5'9" or taller and clocked in at weights mostly associated with middle school girls. Except for one woman, but more on her later.

To match names to faces, refer to this guide:


Twenty Girls in Los Angeles
Twenty semi-finalists gather at L.A.'s Mondrian Hotel and they all seem to be having fun. Adrianne, 20 and from Joliet, Illinois, says, "I'm with my kind, a bunch of Amazon women with big feet, and I feel like I finally fit in for once." The giggles are quickly silenced when Casting Director Michelle Mok rains on everyone's parade by telling the girls only ten will be going to New York City. Let's not bring in the Grim Reaper (in a designer cloak, of course) just yet though. To make things happier, a catsuited Tyra shows up to make everyone merry again and forget about that fact there will be a casualty rate of 50% in two days.

Day One of finalist auditions and it's evident the combing through thousands of submitted tapes did not produce the best and brightest. But here's where we meet the girls that we'll be sharing the next eight weeks. First up is Elyse, 20 and from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She's rail-thin and looks like Shalom Harlow and is the brains of this series because she's medical school bound. Yes, I'm perfectly aware Heidi from Survivor: Amazon said that too. When asked what she would do if she had to put one off, she came up with a good response: "Medical school can be deferred indefinitely whereas being twenty years old cannot." Well, it made me laugh.

Next we have Ebony, 24 and from the Bronx. She'll be the lesbian on the show as Tyra is quick to point out. After her is Katie, 21 and from Glenville, Illinois. Her claim to fame is that she's an animal activist and a member of PETA. Let's give her a round of applause for e-mailing Congress but ask more questions about her "huh?" statement: "I just saved five polar bears."

We now get two shallow, filler semi-finalists that want to win because you get to have your hair done, travel and they like make-up. That'll impress the judges. Then we get our token sob story. Natalie is from Riverside, California and has seven siblings. She needs to become a supermodel so she can inspire her brothers and sisters with her success. Boo hoo.

It's time for a virgin, don't you think? If The Amazing Race 4 is going to have two, we need at least one here. Shannon, 18 and from Franklin, Ohio, is our religious girl who was saved at the age of ten. She's saving herself for marriage but proudly exclaims, "But when I get married, I told my Mom my wedding's gonna be cut short!" Prospective grooms are already forming a line that snakes around the block.

Finally we have our bitch of the bunch, Justine, 22 and from Huntington, California. Just think Heidi from Joe Millionaire and you're all set. According to her, she's the best there and she might as well just be named the winner right now. You know what's coming, right?

Day Two of finalist auditions means we get to meet Kesse, 21 and from North Little Rock, Arkansas. She's got Sob Story #2 (for those of you keeping count) but is a feisty one who perhaps did not learn anything from The Bachelor's Kirsten because she's "not here to make friends." She knows "this is a competition."

Up next is Adrianne, our 20 year old from Joilet. She's cool even though she speaks like a cross between Spicolli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Fran Drescher. Adrianne also tells us that in high school she didn't get asked out a lot. This seems to be a common theme among these tall skinny girls. ATTENTION HIGH SCHOOL GEEKS: Quit eyeing the cheerleaders and go for the tall skinny girls. All you have to do is wait one or two years and you have a goldmine!

We get some more filler from girls who won't make the cut and the only important thing to note here is that more than half of the twenty girls don't seem up for the task. Yes, our first twist is coming up! Be patient.

Our last two women are Nicole, 22 and from Murrieta, California and Robin, 26 and from Memphis, Tennessee. Nicole is 7' feet tall (I don't care what her bio says) and absolutely stunning. I mention this for the high school geeks to take note again: Nicole said she didn't get asked out in high school either!

Robin is different. She's a bit older and is not rail-thin like the others. She makes a good point though. "If you look at the average woman, that's me." Let the assumptions begin.

From Twenty to Ten (Well, Eight)
Everyone is nervous about who'll make the finals. And here's that twist: the producers can only agree on eight! Out of the thousands of applicants, they couldn't even bring ten worthy contestants to L.A.?

In the order called, the eight finalists are Nicole, Robin, Kesse, Elyse, Katie, Ebony, Adrianne and Shannon.

We're shown some shed tears from losers Justin (wait, didn't she say she'd win?) and Natalie. Boo hoo, part deux.

The Finalists Go to New York City (And Now We Get Ten)
It's winter in the Big Apple and the girls are excited to be there! The joy escalates when they see where they'll be spending the next eight weeks: the 45th Floor Penthouse of the Flatotel right in Times Square.

Each room in the Penthouse is named after a city and themed: Paris (City of High Fashion), Milan (City of New Faces), Tokyo (City of Avant Garde Fashion), London (City of Trendy Fashion) and Miami (City of Sexy Fashion).

No Boise.

Anyway, the girls choose their rooms and roommates so we get the following arrangements:

Milan: Robin, Kesse and Shannon
Tokyo: Nicole, Katie and Elyse
Miami: Adrianne and Ebony

We get our first bit of near-controversy. It turns out all the girls in Milan are Bible thumpers. That will surely come into play later, as hinted by Elyse's concern they are alienating themselves.

Host Tyra stops by to welcome all the girls but out of the blue announces she likes "round numbers" and just like that two new contestants appear. They are Giselle, 18 and from Corona, California and Tessa, 19 and from Chicago, Illinois. Tyra explained they did another nationwide search for these two. I have no clue what happened behind the scenes but what it means is that we now have ten contestants, as promised.

Tyra gathers the girls around her and tells them they will be subject to a battery of modeling tests, including photo shoots and media training (i.e., "how to speak like a supermodel and represent top companies"). I could not keep a straight face at this point. Tyra tells them about all the prizes they'll get and a round of applause ensues.

Katie tells the camera she feels Giselle is her biggest competition because they both look alike. However, she does feel better that Giselle is older. Meow! Meanwhile, Tessa already can't stand Nicole because she's the competing blonde who is taller, skinnier and has bigger boobs.

We then see how, as in real life, the first friends in a new group are formed: the smokers. Adrianne and Tessa find a quiet corner of the Penthouse to light up but their sanctuary is quickly extinguished by Robin who reminds them that the smell will get into everything. Shannon approvingly says Robin is the "mother" of the group.

John The Personal Trainer
John stops by the Penthouse to measure and weigh everyone. As mentioned, all the girls are around 5'9" to 5'11" and weigh 125 lbs. to 135 lbs. That stand-outs are Elyse who tips the scales at 114 lbs. and Robin at 165 lbs. Elyse looks fine but Robin apparently doesn't think so and draws first blood on the weight issue by saying, "If [Elyse is] naturally skinny, than she's naturally skinny, but when you can count every vertebrae, that's sickly."

John says he'll periodically (and unexpectedly) conduct his measurements throughout the competition.

Bikini Waxes For All
HA HA! For you men too busy watching the finale of 24, guess what? You missed watching models get Brazilian bikini waxes. I swear they showed it!

Jonice Padilha and her "bikini wax entourage" show up at that Penthouse telling the girls to lay down and open up, lift up and put up because they must all get Brazilian bikini waxes. Adrianne and Ebony are first up and they are quite vocal about the sensation. Ebony: "I must really want to go to Brazil bad!"

For the next five minutes, UPN treats us to various camera angles of the process. God bless this network.

Giselle and Robin have major reservations about getting it done but they come around and play ball.

"Tyra Mail"
Survivor has tree mail, so here we've got "Tyra Mail," as labeled by Tessa. Tyra sends a big red envelope with instructions for the girls. The first letter says, "You have a photo shoot for J.Lo swimwear tomorrow morning. Be at the hotel lobby at 7:45am sharp."

So the next day at 6:00am we see the good girls getting up, showering, getting dressed (bra and panty shots) and being right on time. They get into their car service and drive off.

But then we've got the bad girls too. Ebony, Robin, Kesse and Shannon all decide 7:45am sharp really means 8:11am dull and...they miss their car service! TAXI!!!

Once they finally reach the photo shoot, the late girls delay the hair and make-up people. Tyra calls Ebony, Robin, Kesse and Shannon forward and gives them a mini handing-their-asses-on-a-plate lecture for forgetting that time is money and that if this was a real shoot, they would have probably been dismissed. Tyra's tough words are followed up with a smile, however, and the shoot is explained.

The girls are on a rooftop and are introduced to photographer Douglas Bizarro and his assistant, Elizabeth Moss. Remember how I said it was winter? Douglas Bizarro tells them they'll be doing the swimwear shoot right here. Ah, so the tests will be a bit harsh. Nice! Here's how it goes:

Adrianne: "I say it's about 20 degrees" pointing to her, erm, chestal indicators. Gotta like Adrianne.
Nicole: Douglas Bizarro said she listens well.
Tessa: Nervous, awkward, moving around a lot.
Robin: Wears a wrap-around.
Elyse: Totally can't handle the cold and starts crying. More snot that Omar Shariff in Dr. Zhivago.
Giselle: Goes for it and Douglas Bizarro likes what he sees.
Ebony: Good job.
Katie: Heavy criticism and she does weird Heidi-like mouth movements. Douglas Bizarro says she's trying to be too Playboyish.
Shannon: Takes some criticism. Douglas Bizarro wanted a "fierce look" and instead he got a numb face. I'm wondering if that was because it was freezing.
Kesse: Douglas Bizarro's favorite. She was easy to shoot and was able to "give the face."

It's No Palm Sunday
In order to dispel the speculation that these girls don't eat, the next scene takes place at The Palm restaurant. Even though I only saw one girl put one bite in her mouth, most of them did appear to have lobster shells in front of them so I'm assuming some eating occurred. Dessert is Crème Controversy when the topic turns to "Do You Believe in God" and the girls of Milan (Robin, Kesse and Shannon) learn that Elyse is an atheist. To her credit, Elyse wasn't making a big deal about it but Robin now has "extreme reservations" about her. As if that wasn't enough to ruin dinner, there's more Tyra Mail. Tomorrow, one of the girls is getting eliminated. Elyse thinks she's the one that's getting the boot because of her awful photo shoot. But everyone is nervous and anxious.

Meet The Judges
This panel of judges is made up of Beau Quillian, the fashion editor for Marie Claire; Janice Dickinson, a model in the 1970s; Tyra Banks, herself; Kimora Lee Simmons, CEO and creative director of Baby Phat and photographer Douglas Bizarro. Tyra explains that every week they'll have a new expert judge (American Idol anyone?) and this week's it's Douglas' turn.

Janice says she's "been in the industry for quite a long time, making [her] the most opinionated person on this panel." We see a few photos of her back in her prime. She wasn't all that then and she's far less now.

Beau confesses, "if a model is not great, I can't do anything for her. There has to be a basic something there to work with."

Kimora is even more blunt: "I think you have to have that personality, that drive. Certain things you can work on but the bulk of it you have to be born with."

This is one tough group but Tyra has "tremendous respect" for them. Aside from ending their sentences in prepositions, they at least work in the business. Well, Janice thinks she still does.

The girls are then interviewed one at a time and we get the following rapid-fire comments for each:

Katie: Janice says "She's got a lot of work to catch up to [Tyra]."
Kesse: Douglas Bizarro is still praising himself for his great photograph he took of her.
Adrianne: Janice compliments her face but says she's got bad feet.
Nicole: Douglas says she gave the most.
Ebony: Janice tells her she's got to work on her thighs. It's not just "about the booty."
Giselle: Kimora says she's exotic and has long legs. Douglas says he was blown away.
Shannon: Janice says she's got a waif look and that's ok. Douglas goes for the jugular and says he can tell she tans a lot and her skin is already getting a little leathery. Tyra loves her personality.
Tessa: Douglas says her bathing suit was not flattering. But it's Tessa that shoots herself in her own foot when she admits she steers away from anything that has to do with little clothes. "I don't even like to wear shorts." Janice delivers the line we all want say: "I think you're choosing the wrong profession."
Robin: Janice shows lots of tact by asking, "Are we shooting for the large size category?" Tyra loves Robin but admits she'd like to see her more proportioned as a plus-size model. "On the top she's not, but on the bottom she is." Kimora ponders that 26 is late to break into modeling.
Elyse: Beau says she's a little too thin for him. Janice loves it. Tyra says, "I'm not against thin if it's natural."

After the interviews the judges try to come to an agreement. Basically, you need subtitles to follow what's going on because they are all talking over one another. Here's what I understood:

"I think America's Next Top Model is not a plus-size model," Janice says referring to Robin. Nicole is on everyone's "in" list. Elyse gets an "in" and an "out." Shannon gets some outs. Tessa is raked because of her non-dominant personality. Katie is seen as too Playboyish. Kimora says Ebony moved better than anyone here.

The Photo Ceremony
Finally we get to the results. In true reality television tradition, we need a ceremony and here's how it works. Tyra holds nine photos in her hand. The girl that does not get her photo back is eliminated. Every time Tyra hands out a photo she says "You're still in the running to become America's next top model."

In order, the following girls get photographs: Ebony, Elyse, Kesse, Adrianne, Katie, Nicole, Giselle, Robin!

Yes, Robin gets one and apparently this is supposed to be shocking because Tyra interrupts the Photo Ceremony to say what she's got going for her is that she "[represents] the majority of women in America." I'll have to check that statistic.

Now we're down to the last photo. Tyra asks Tessa and Shannon to step forward. The girl that does not receive a photo is eliminated immediately and must say goodbye to her roommates. The last photo is given to...Shannon! Tessa's out of there! The sadness is augmented by Simon & Garfunkel's A Heart In New York and everyone begins to hug and cry. Tessa says saying goodbye to the girls is "a lot harder than I thought it would be." Then she says the standard defeatist line, "everything happens for a reason." Duh! This happened because you said you don't like wearing skimpy clothes! Jeez.

In the show's cheesiest moment, we see a portrait of all ten contestants and Tessa magically is erased. Ah, special effects!

The previews for next week show us our nine contestants on the runway and at a photo shoot for Stuff Magazine. Remember that thread about Jenna's profile in that mag several weeks ago? Also there's some kind of fight between Ebony and the rest of the girls. Finally, Elyse pulls a Shawna and wants to leave.

To contact the author, send mail to deepdish@fansofrealitytv.com.